Cooler weather and shorter days can leave even the most cheerful of us feeling low. Every winter, seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, affects 11 million Americans. Which means if you’re suffering from winter depression anytime from October to April, you’re not alone.
No matter how mild or severe your winter blues, the changing weather can feel overwhelming. Thankfully, you can do several things to combat the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.
Tips and tricks to help you keep a brighter mood during the cold winter months:
- Get Sunlight Every Day
- Light Box Therapy
- Stay Healthy
- Embrace the Danish Art of Hygge
- Find Help
The main cause of winter depression is lack of sunlight. When you’re cooped up indoors during colder months, you’re not getting enough direct sunlight exposure. Even if it’s cold, make sure to get outside. Bundle up and get into the sun every day. With shorter days in the winter, this might mean taking a few minutes of your lunch break to walk outside. You should also use the weekends to exercise or play in the sunlight.
While winter months leave less time and opportunity to take advantage of natural sunlight, there are still ways to get the light you need. Artificial sunlight boxes are designed with special fluorescent tubes that mimic the benefits of sun exposure. By sitting in front of a light box for 30 minutes first thing in the morning, you can fight off seasonal affective disorder or just the winter blues. Some studies have even found that using a light box for 30 minutes a day is just as effective as taking an antidepressant.
Getting exercise even in winter will improve your mood. Aim to get some form of vigorous exercise 3-4 days a week. That will help combat winter weight gain and the endorphins can help stave off depression. Watching what you eat can also help combat the winter blues. Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid foods that may leave you feeling sluggish.
During cold, dark days, the Danish have found ways to cope with winter. They call it hygge (pronounced hoo-gah). See, you just said it out loud and you already feel better.
Loosely translated as coziness, hygge means creating a warm environment with people you enjoy. You can practice the art of hygge by embracing the good things in life. Light some candles, wear wooly socks, and cook a nice meal with the people you love. Other ways to incorporate hygge might include taking a long walk or hike during fall weather, playing board games with friends, or reading a book under a warm blanket with your kids. No matter how you choose to do it, adding hygge to your life can help you get more happiness out of your winter.
While it might be tempting to hibernate during winter, socializing with others is good for your mental health. Even when you don’t feel in the mood to brace the elements, forcing yourself to socialize can lift your mood, and you may just find that dinner with your friends was a lot more fun than you thought it would be.
Whether your seasonal affect disorder symptoms are mild or severe, therapy can be a helpful way to cope with the challenges of winter-time weather. It’s also a good idea to talk to your family doctor if you’re experiencing depression and other seasonal affective disorder symptoms.